Thursday, January 17, 2008

Please, I hate to complain, but...

Folks! I know a lot of you have your English grammar pet peeves. Some don't like the abuse of the apostrophe, some the use of "Me and my family" (Ok that's also my one. It's "My family and I" it's rude to put yourself first above others in this way.) or something else grammatical that annoys the crap out of you whenever you see it. Because we all went to school, we should all know the rules.

I see it everywhere and it bugs me. What I see are folks who can't use a/an properly. The rules for this are very simple. A is used when the following word begins with a consonant, and An is used when the following word begins with a vowel. An is also used when followed by a silent H, as in honorable and honest.

Really, really, really easy rule.

So what's with all the An Historical??? It even hurts to say, unless you are French or Cockney and drop your letter H willy-nilly (That's more for Cockneys, not the French). But either way, it's still written as A Historical. Otherwise you'd have to write An 'istorical to show a letter belongs there but it's (linguistically?) missing. The other exceptions are because the word starts with a consonant sound: A following a word beginning with a letter U making an oo or you sound; a unicorn, a unicycle, a used car; or an O making a w sound like one.

An Honourable Mention.
A Hamburger.
An Anatomy Book.
A Hobby.
An Honest opinion.
A Hippie.
A One-legged Hippie.
A University Student.
A European Vacation. *
An Hour Away.
A Hotel.

I'm done now. Rant over.

The only time I trip about on this rule is the word Herb. As an American I don't pronounce the H and therefore say "An 'erb." The British do pronounce the H and will say A Herb. My rationale is that Herb is a French word and the French don't pronounce the H at the beginnings of words. My rationale has failed me in the past, however. I'm not alone in this, NPR did an article about it a couple years ago

*Dumb joke from primary school: What nationality are when using the toilet? European! (I know it doesn't make perfect sense but an eight year old will like it. I don't know why I can remember that joke, but not the name of my third grade teacher.)


Marg said...

The joke makes perfect sense to me! Must be because I have a 9 year old here who likes to tell jokes!

Chick said...

I love that joke & feel the same about grammatical indiscretions...they bug me to no end too.

NWJR said...

Yay, Lyvvie! This is a historic post!

Several years back, TIME Magazine printed an article about Geraldine Ferraro running for Vice President with the heading "A Historic Choice". They were roundly criticized for this supposed grammatical faux pas, even though they were correct.

Lyvvie said...

Rich! I had to look that up and look! Look!!

"A's and An's

Shouldn't your cover [July 23] have read "An Historic Choice," not, as you have it, "A Historic Choice"?

David MacMillan

Stuart, Fla.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Shame on you, TIME. "A Historic Choice" indeed.

Ann K. Smith

Fort Wayne, Ind.

Appalling. Who dropped the n in the An on your cover? Teachers everywhere are groaning. Those of us who used to look to TIME for decent editing have given up in disgust.

William E. Bolster

Rowayton, Conn.
Linked here

Teacher are telling Willie to zip it. Unless, please don't let it be so, he is a teacher?!

Just astonishing.

Lyvvie said...

...on reading that comment section further, one page one we get this wonderful comment - completely not related to grammar, but...Yikes!

"In picking Ferraro, Mondale caved in to the threats and pressures from proabortion, pro-lesbian, militant feminists.

(The Rev.) John Putka Cincinnati

Wow. 1984 was a scary, sexist place to for women. I respect Ferraro even more now.


Crystal* said...

It's the important stuff that sticks.

As far as grammar, oh yeah. Some of it irritates the hell right out of me.
My absolute favorite *eye roll* is listening to Dubya jaw on without the slightest clue as to what the hell he is saying.

tornwordo said...

I always notice the lose/loose misuse. If someone has a British accent "An Historic" sounds okay to me, but in Amerikun, it sounds wrong ; )